keskiviikko 31. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - The Invincible Iron Man | GBA | 2002

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: December 10, 2002
DEVELOPER(S): Torus Games
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

By 2002, Activision had done quite good with Marvel's big names and even better stuff was on its way out of this lucrative business deal. In the end of the year, Activision was commissioned to re-introduce Iron Man to the video game circuit with a moderately cheap Game Boy Advance-exclusive probably meant to be not much more than a "test" of sorts - The Invincible Iron Man. It certainly doesn't feel like much more than a quick test, but well, at least it's better than the last game with Stark for the lead.

Scrappy's return

An alarm sounds through Stark Enterprises and Tony gets ready to don the Iron Man armour to save the day, only to find that it's been stolen. He fetches one of his extra armour sets and blasts after the thieves before they can use the armour to their advantage.

This is going to be quite brief otherwise, so I might as well tell you a little story - when's the last time I DIDN'T do that, exactly...? As I pointed out in one of the Spider-Man reviews, it was part my friend's suggestion that I did a Marvel marathon, and the thought lingered on for quite some time. The thing that finally drove me over the edge was my second viewing of the first Iron Man movie. You see, when you think of Marvel games, you immediately think of the endless swarms of Spider-Man or X-Men games, or Marvel vs. Capcom. You never think how big Marvel actually is, until movies like Blade and Iron Man, and the upcoming Deadpool slap you across the face (I'm not too sure if I want to see that last one, though). There's Daredevil, Hulk, Thor, Avengers, all that, even The Punisher and Men in Black, and if you dig deep enough, you'll find games related to each.

Guess where we're at? Starts with "D". That's
Most of the aforementioned curiosities are so rare and forgotten that you won't know anything about 'em 'til you've tried 'em. That's what made this marathon such an exciting idea. Sure, most of the games thus far have been shit, but sometimes, positive surprises emerge. The Invincible Iron Man is not one of them - it's not too positive, and it's definitely not surprising. But, yet again, at least it's mildly entertaining, which makes it lightyears better than Iron Man's previous namesake.

What we have here is a very generic action platformer with obviously cheap production values in comparison to other Marvel-related franchises Activision was working on at the time. Weak music and sound effects, one-dimensional graphics, poor level design - pick the most generic and shortest Spider-Man game out of all the handheld games released in the last 13 years and downgrade it a bunch to get this one. Mild entertainment is offered in the form of decent controls; the action might not be what you expect of an Iron Man game, but it's almost what you'd expect from any Game Boy Advance action game you paid for.

There's really not more to say besides that The Invincible Iron Man was a save over the completely rotten Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal, but it pretty much goes to prove that no matter how awesome Tony Stark is, he was never cut out to make it in the video game circuit.

+ Decent controls and decent, yet completely unoriginal and anti-climactic platformer action

- Poor level design
- One-dimensional graphics
- Horrible sound

< 5.9 >

REVIEW - Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal | GB | 1996

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: October 9, 1996 (SAT)
DEVELOPER(S): Realtime Associates
PUBLISHER(S): Acclaim Entertainment

Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, was created by Stan Lee and made his first Marvel Comics appearance in the Tales of Suspense series in March 1963. Iron Man differed a great deal from all other comic book superheroes, as he was a billionaire playboy who never cared much for the world until he was captured in a war zone and forced to design weapons for Chinese terrorists. He secretly built a huge suit of impenetrable armour to escape his captors and finished the design back home, becoming the colossal problem solver Iron Man - whose identity eventually became well known to the public. Iron Man was never nearly as popular as Marvel's stalwarts Spider-Man and X-Men, perhaps due to the fact that he was created at a time of conflict, inspired by that conflict. X-O Manowar is somewhat of a curiosity from the Marvel archives, created by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton and Jon Hartz and debuted in early 1992. Aric Dacia was an ancient warrior who was captured by aliens back at his time. He stole and used the high-tech X-O Manowar armour to escape the spaceship and travel back to Earth, but having travelled at lightspeed, he found himself trapped in modern times. In 1996, Iron Man and X-O Manowar joined forces in their first - and X-O's only - starring roles in a video game. It was called Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal. The game was first released on Sega Saturn, and then ported to several different consoles, including Sega and Nintendo's handhelds. I'm willing to bet Stan Lee wept.

An iron-clad abomination

Tony Stark and Aric Dacia team up as Iron Man and X-O Manowar to stop a team of terrorists - led by General Krytos - from obtaining and assembling the lost pieces of the Cosmic Cube. The terrorists have in turn teamed up with the aliens from whom Aric stole the X-O Manowar armour.

Yep, it looks abysmal.
I first heard of this game back in 1997, and it was also the first time I heard of the Marvel superhero named Iron Man; apparently, he was never too known or popular back here before the first movie came along to educate as late as 2008, and what a wonderful movie that turned out to be. This game, Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal had the coolest title in the world. Of course I immediately thought of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" and the band Manowar, and that's what the developers were probably going for, adding the title Heavy Metal to it for good measure. It stuck on me for years, but I never played the game - the review was about the PC version, and I didn't have a PC at the time, nor did I have any of the consoles it was out on. My friends did, but they didn't quite share my enthusiasm with the mere title of the game, and they had equally faint idea about Iron Man as I did. The point here was that I loved the title of the game, and it had a Marvel superhero for a lead character - it didn't matter when they said the game was horrible. I wish it had mattered, so I would've been able to duck this Game Boy port, which is frankly one of the most horrible games I've ever played.

Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal - I've just got to repeat that, over and over again, to somehow lighten up this review - is once again one of those games that does absolutely everything wrong. It looks like ass, it sounds like asser (is that a word?), and it plays out like a limp dick. From what I've heard, the console and PC versions really aren't any better in quality, but I refuse to believe that they would look or sound this ugly, or that at least some of the problems wouldn't be harvested by the introduction of a proper control layout. Both characters have about ten moves or special abilities each; that might sound cool, but just take a moment and you'll realize that managing these moves with a digital pad and two action buttons is fucking hard. Unnecessarily hard, and not comfortable for one passing second. Also, what I don't understand is why B is assigned to throw objects by itself, but to manage a simple punch, you need to press B and A simultaneously, and at a precision that is well beyond extreme. Also, to do a roundhouse kick, which is the easier melee option, you need to press Up on the digital pad instead of a logical option like B or A.

That was Iron Man in the last
one, this is X-O Manowar. But,
I'm sure you spotted the
difference. :P
The enemies take a million hits from anything from your melee attacks to your heavy artillery - both do the exact same amount of damage - before going down, and after one hit, they flash for something like three years, preventing you from following up on a successful hit and very often getting the jump on you. Each step you take in this game is a fucking nightmare, seriously. After just a few levels, I've had enough - this game goes on for far, far, far, far, far too long for its own good. Or the good of any unfortunate schmuck's sanity.

I wish I had something more substantial to say, but Iron Man / X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal - yup, still love that title - isn't a very substantial game in itself. I knew I wasn't in for a great experience, but I can't believe I waited for years to get served this bowl of urine. It's one of the very few games with Iron Man in the helm, and I'm seriously expecting SOME fashion of attempt from the next, last Iron Man game I have in store.

+ The title

- Everything else... everything.

< 1.4 >

REVIEW - Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions | Xbox 360 | 2010

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: September 7, 2010
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was one of the most highly anticipated superhero games of the recent years, and for good reasons; quality Spider-Man games had been coming out for years, and given the cult popularity of all of Spider-Man's different reincarnations, this game was going to bring something for everyone into the table, for old-school fans and fans of the obscure alike. It was to star three different Spider-Men in addition to the classic Amazing version of the webslinger, all with their own gameplay styles and all working together to bring down the largest gallery of rogues ever seen in a single game, to offer a similar kind of all-star treat for Marvel fans as Batman: Arkham Asylum was for DC fans. Beenox were a little over their heads with ambition, that much is certain from the beginning - but Marvel buffs at the very least will find that Shattered Dimensions is definitely a game to watch out for.

One damn bumpy thrill ride

Neil Patrick Harris : Amazing Spider-Man
Josh Keaton : Ultimate Spider-Man
Dan Gilvezan : Spider-Man 2099
Christopher Daniel Barnes : Spider-Man Noir
Susanne Blakeslee : Madame Web
David Kaye : Mysterio
Jim Cummings : Kraven the Hunter / Green Goblin
John DiMaggio : Hammerhead
Steve Blum : Hobgoblin / Vulture
Nolan North : Deadpool

Spider-Man catches Mysterio robbing a museum, and during their struggle, he inadvertently breaks a magical artifact known as the Tablet of Order and Chaos, which the villain is after. Pieces of the Tablet end up in the hands of Spider-Man's arch enemies across four different realities. Four different incarnations of Spider-Man must work together to bring down a whole host of power hungry supervillains - including the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Deadpool and Carnage - before dealing with the master of illusion, whose piece of the Tablet has granted him the gift of true magic.

Amazing vs. Kraven.
I was struggling to find the right words to begin this review with, but when they finally popped into my mind, it was clear as day: if I was 11 or 12 years old, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions would be my favourite game in the world right after Batman: Arkham Asylum. I wouldn't give a damn about the details, how it plays out and all that; the production values and the cast of characters would be quite enough to do the trick.

Let's rewind a bit, though - I have to accept the fact that I'm almost 30 years old. I love RPG's, and RPG-like games. I love intense action games. I love unique games. I love good stories. I love great gameplay, regardless of the genre. Well, the truth is that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is none like any of the aforementioned games, nor does it benefit from any of the aforementioned qualities. It's not too intense - actually combat can get quite boring in large doses - the gameplay has its gaps, and the story is whacked beyond belief, albeit irrelevant. Finally, it's a comic book license, none as exciting or open-ended as Arkham Asylum. I know some of you might be pissed at me for constantly bringing the game up, but hey, that's what they were obviously going for. Just look at this cast of characters - complete with spectacular voiceover work - and tell me it isn't what ultimately makes this game stick, and tell me it wasn't meant to be Marvel's very own killer app in Asylum's vein. I dare you.

The game features four different Spider-Men from different continuities or universes - call them anything you want, in this game they are Spider-Men from different "dimensions". Hence the title Shattered Dimensions, duh-duh-duh. All of them face off with bosses and their own peculiar types of henchmen in a total of 13 levels; three bosses for each, then they face the big cheese together. Some of the alternative versions of familiar boss characters such as Doctor Octopus and Hobgoblin make their very first appearances in this game, making it a must for any Marvel completist right off the bat. Stan Lee himself narrates the game for the first time in years, which is another piece of solid proof of how serious they were with this game, and how they wanted to present these sidestories to people who might've not appreciated them in the past in a whole new light. It's funny I should use the word "present", because the next thing I was going to say is that the presentation of the game is off the charts; it's the one thing right on par with Batman's Arkham debut.

Ultimate vs. Deadpool.
Let's start with the cavalcade of voice actors. Long-time, well-educated Spider-Man fans will surely know the names of Christopher Daniel Barnes (Spider-Man Noir) and Dan Gilvezan (Spider-Man 2099), who voiced the Amazing Spider-Man in the 90's animated series and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from the early 80's, respectively. Then we have known voice actor Josh Keaton (Ultimate Spider-Man), who previously voiced Spider-Man and Peter Parker in a more recent animated series, The Spectacular Spider-Man. Finally, we have Barney Stinson himself, Neil Patrick Harris, as the very original article, doing one fantastic reprisal of his lead role in the short-lived continuation of the first Sam Raimi movie, Spider-Man - The New Animated Series. Then we have Nolan North delivering one of his greatest performances ever - and that's got to be GREAT - as Wade Wilson/Deadpool, someone who was long overdue for major screen time in a video game, in his original and priceless comic book form. Jennifer Hale is Silver Sable, John DiMaggio is Hammerhead, and both Steve Blum and Jim Cummings lend their voices to a whole host of Marvel stalwarts. In the end, just about everyone you'd expect to see here IS here... except for Venom. Even though my favourite Spidey villain is ousted from the fray, there are very good reasons for his dismissal, and considering he had been a part of almost every Spider-Man game ever made up 'til the release of Shattered Dimensions (and after), I think it was only fair and logical to give him a rest. The introduction of the Ultimate dimension kind of explains Venom's absence from the get-go, so pretty much the only question in my mind is: where is any version of Curt Connors?

It should be pretty clear by now that for a comic book nerd, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions would be a must-purchase even if it outright sucked, which it fortunately doesn't. Not by a long shot. It looks great, too. Each dimension has a different graphical style; in fact, I think these graphical styles differ from each other more than the gameplay styles of the different dimensions, with the exception of the specific stealth layout of Noir. Amazing and Ultimate sport absolutely fabulous cel-shaded graphics, looking exactly like a comic book come to life. 2099 takes the safer, more realistic road, and borrows a LOT from sci-fi games of the last decade. Finally, Noir's unique, shadowy approach is fully complimented with relatively realistic graphics, and with the colour palette switched to black and white with a hint of yellow. The music's good enough and the voiceover work's just supreme, basically, but what I didn't mention before is that especially during tricky boss fights, you might want to mute your monitor to prevent your sanity flooding out of your ears, due to the very repetitive banter between Spider-Man and the boss, plus Madame Web telling you her one single, less helpful hint each time you accidentally do something that doesn't work that well. I swear, if I ever hear Scorpion saying "RRRRRip you to shRRRRRedssss!!!" and Web immediately cutting in with some fashion of "That won't work" one more time, I'm going to rip my own ears off.

I won't hide the fact that I'm most comfortable playing as the Amazing Spider-Man (I still hate that "Amazing" exclamation, but it helps here), but I've got to say that in the end, Ultimate Spider-Man's levels are the most fun and he gets all the best bosses to trifle with in Electro, Deadpool and Carnage. Like I said, both of these Spider-Men play out pretty much the same - it's just that Amazing uses traditional webbing while Ultimate plays around with a tamed Venom symbiote. Oops, I spilled it. Not much of a spoiler, though - the cover art makes it quite clear. Spider-Man 2099 is the most lame character in the bunch, and the only one with a completely different alter ego (Miguel O'Hara) and backstory. It seems that when it comes to future-related reboots and sidestories such as this one, I tend to hate 'em, just like I hated Batman Beyond. It just doesn't feel right, and Spider-Man with technological gadgets and augmentations just isn't my cup of tea, or a Spider-Man that isn't Peter Parker.

Noir vs. some unlucky punk.
Noir sounded good enough; I was not familiar with the Spider-Man Noir mini-series before this game came along. Stealth games have definitely been my cup of tea for a long, long time, and I was expecting this part of the game to rock my world. Well, it didn't. It has a good enough plot - the _thing_ that ties all the dimensions together turns welcomely irrelevant on the go - and I dig its very profound noir presentation, but when it comes to gameplay, it's one poor excuse of a stealth action game. There's absolutely no logic to enemy placements, and it's incredibly easy to escape an alerted guard in any environment by just swinging around in circles - even if right above the guy, occasionally. If for some reason you cannot escape - probably a glitch preventing you from latching on to anything, happens a bit too often - you can't do SHIT to the guard. You can punch and kick him to your heart's content - hell, even use special attacks that are usually extremely hard to block - and he just shrugs it all off and keeps shooting at you until you manage to escape, return, and take him down quietly. It's ridiculous. Oh, and apparently these guys hear no evil, see no evil - in other words, you can slap a guy screaming his lungs out to a wall and tie him up right next to a patrolling guard. As long as his back is turned, he usually won't notice a thing, and he won't look twice at a thick web cocoon that was once his best pal for life. It's not only ridiculous, it's easy - the challenge lies in the very essential gameplay feature surprisingly known as "Challenges".

Like just about every respectable action game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has extra motivation for conquest to offer in addition to the always effective Trophies and Achievements, in the form of 180 Challenges evenly divided between all levels except for the Tutorial and the final boss fight. These Challenges range from simply making progress to optional goals you may or may not figure out right in the beginning of the level. To name a few examples, first from the least obvious end. In one of the 2099 levels, you need to melt down doors by throwing acid eggs at them, but you can also melt down wall fans with those very same eggs, and melting down ten of them nails the challenge. In any of the Noir levels, you might be given a number of successful quiet takedowns in a row without alerting one single guard. Or in any of the levels, a time limit to reach a certain destination, and in every single level, a number of Spider Emblems to collect. The challenges are fun, and definitely raise the bar of replay value here, and what's best about them, is that they're not just for show. By conquering a set amount of challenges, you unlock new sets of upgrades for your characters, as well as their combat skills, ranging from maximum health to faster and more devastating combos. You need Spider Essence (EXP) to purchase the unlocked skills, and that you get from pretty much everything. The combos are not that useful, I'm afraid, but neat, and should add at least some depth to the game's otherwise somewhat shallow and messy combat. Other unlockables include character bios, special costumes and figurines, pretty much everything you're used to seeing in these types of games.

2099 vs. Hobgoblin.
There's still a bit more. You are ranked after each level, according to the following criteria: the sum of each combo performed, emblems collected and the time it took you to pass the level. As per usual, getting gold in each level on the hardest difficulty level is the ultimate goal, and should keep you in the game for a long time, assuming you're enough of a Spider-Fan to be able to manage the game's most vicious outbreaks of bullshit. These include just about everything going on in the more crowded levels of Noir, the total randomness of a certain 2099 freefall section (you'll see), the game's all-around occasional refusal to follow orders (most evident in the free-swinging sections), the camera (how "nice" to see an old favourite emerge), glitches that prevent you from reaching objectives which are usually hard enough to reach as they are, and finally, the endless broken record the otherwise stellar voiceover track slaps on for a spin every once in a while, especially during the boss fights, some of which have otherwise awesome potential - and every single one of them's different. From shadowplay with Hammerhead to the all-out chaos of Sandman, the slapstick mayhem of Deadpool and finally, the epic Mysterio fight which is pretty much ripped off God of War, the boss fights are some of the most enjoyable and positively surprising bits of the game.

All in all, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a very entertaining, heartfelt superhero game which no true Marvel fan can live without, but unlike its DC Comics counterpart and especially its sequel, it falls far from its true potential. The challenges and enjoying the magnificent performance by the cast are things that will keep you going for quite a while.

+ To date, perhaps the coolest graphics I've seen in a licensed game of this generation
+ Great cast of characters, with compliments of a great voiceover cast
+ Great presentation altogether, true Spider-Man spirit especially when it comes to the humour
+ Hefty amounts of different challenges and unlockables
+ Some brilliant boss fights

- A dumb story that is luckily left in the shadow of the individual plot of each dimension
- Majority of the Noir game is a wasted opportunity
- Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the 2099 dimension
- Crummy webslinging mechanics
- The camera's a bitch...
- ...That rides on a glitch
- Extremely repetitive combat dialogue

< 7.5 >

tiistai 30. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Ultimate Spider-Man | GBA | 2005

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: September 19, 2005
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Reboot's been the word for years, and I don't believe anyone even remembers when and where the trend began. It's most risky to reboot a comic book franchise that's been around for decades - there's always a group of nerds that won't appreciate any new direction or a rewritten storyline. Marvel Comics set up the Ultimate Marvel universe in 2000 with the first publications of Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men. Although the Ultimate series was a reimagining of the whole Marvel universe, it was never intended to take its place, and perhaps thus, these Ultimate "sidestories" turned out pretty popular... but there still was this group of stubborn nerds that wouldn't accept it, and I've got to admit that if I was a comic book fan at the time, I probably would've stood with them - I'm just that kind of traditional, old-fashioned geezer. In September 2005, a major video game based on Ultimate Spider-Man was released, and as per usual, it was accompanied by a stripped counterpart for both of Nintendo's handhelds. I guess it's time for me to accept Ultimate Spider-Man - as well as the fact that this game is not even near the console version, instead it's just another short, simple, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man game for the Advance. Nothing more, nothing less.

Every Spider-Man game ever = Ultimate Spider-Man?

Why do I have such a familiar feeling in my
Peter Parker meets up with his childhood friend Eddie Brock; Peter and Eddie's fathers used to work together on a cure for cancer until they both died in a plane accident. As Spider-Man, Peter breaks into Trask Industries to steal the "cure" - a mysterious, formless black substance - only to get consumed by its dark, parasitic power. Peter manages to escape the parasite, but it finds a new host in the embittered Eddie, and transforms him into the monstrous Spider-Man clone Venom, controlling his mind and forcing him to murder. While Spider-Man is out catching bad guys, Eddie roams the streets trying to cope with his recently split personality.

So the bottom line is this: it's always cool to reboot a game franchise. It's risky, but very often worth it - and ALWAYS exciting. It's a bit riskier to reboot a movie franchise. The ghost of Hollywood's future tends to destroy the purity and thrill of an old movie; many superhero movies, ironically, have turned out the complete opposite. Spider-Man has been rebooted _twice_ in cinema during the last 15 years, and on both occasions, the result's been great - and on both occasions, Ultimate Spider-Man's been a very influential series, even moreso when it comes to The Amazing Spider-Man, it seems. Ultimate Spider-Man itself was a reboot - the riskiest of all, a comic book reboot - not appreciated by everyone, although it wasn't nearly as radical change in direction as, say, the animated series Batman Beyond was for the Batman franchise. It kinda had the same storyline as ever, just a few changes were made to make it feel a little more emotional and visceral than the typical, straightforward "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man vs. supervillain of the month" comic book that it had mostly been about up 'til that point. Like Eddie's introduction as Peter's childhood friend instead of a rival colleague, and the Green Goblin being a real Hulk-like monster instead of a crazy scientist in a suit. To many people, the final straw was Peter Parker's death in the final issue of the original Ultimate Spider-Man, at the hands of the Green Goblin, and Spider-Man's "resurrection" with the 13-year old Miles Morales inheriting the alter ego. If you ask me, there's a certain line to shock value and with this twist, Marvel took a huge leap over that line. But, I digress; that was well after this game's time, and Ultimate Spider-Man is a decent take on a Venom origin story, Ultimate style. A bit pointless, I guess, but a solid game I think you'll appreciate if you liked any of the previous Spider-Man games on the Game Boy(s), and are able to forget all that was left out of this version of the game license.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for this guy's
There's really not much to say about the gameplay anymore, if you've read any of the reviews relating to Spider-Man games on the Game Boy Advance. The gameplay's almost identical to Spider-Man 3 which came out a few years later, just the level design's a bit more of a mess and gameplay as Venom is absolutely horrible. By default, Venom can't even swing, he's just a black blob essentially capable of doing two things: punching the shit out of people and feeding on them to regain health. He gains more abilities on the go, but those first few levels with Venom as the lead character come very close of ruining the experience in a point way too early. It's an origin story, yeah, but some things are just not necessary for video game adaptation - nor recommendable. Spider-Man plays out the same as always, although there are some minor upgrades to his abilities available as well. The graphics are decent enough - the character animation's superb and the cutscenes look quite all right, but the backgrounds are surprisingly and disappointingly scruffy and one-dimensional. The music's boring - this monotonic, fast techno/electronica sounds like the sped-up soundtrack of a puzzle game.

...I wish I'd enjoy playing as him as much as
I usually do.
The main point of criticism here is the Game Boy Advance stripdown from every other version of the game. Usually, these things are handled pretty nicely - although Advance games always get this sort of treatment, which is only natural, sacrifices on this scale are not usually made. First of all, the thing that unites each and every version of the game is that it doesn't really have a point, or a solid plot. It's just like two standard stories of the month in one, without a real ending or a real cliffhanger, at that; the Game Boy Advance is the worst in this context, it feels outright pointless. Secondly, and most of all, the "real" game features a whole cavalcade of friends, foes and everyone in between as bosses, including: Wolverine, Human Torch, Rhino, Electro, Beetle, Green Goblin, and last but not least, Carnage. Well, Carnage is in this version too, but the only real boss besides him is Silver Sable. Shocker's talked about a lot, but you never really fight the guy. It's like Vicarious Visions made it all up on the go and just lost interest in the detailed values of the Advance game at some point, to be able to deliver with the DS version. I'd ask why they made it, then, but I think we all know the answer: because $pider-Man.

Well, despite all of its shortcomings, Ultimate Spider-Man is basically just as entertaining as the next Game Boy Advance game starring Spider-Man; absolutely no more, and not much less. It retains the most basic values of an entertaining 2D superhero side-scroller.

+ Good controls
+ Like I once said, Venom's always a plus...

- ...It's just too bad he (looks and) plays out like pudding in the beginning
- Not much to go on when it comes to a solid storyline
- One-dimensional graphics and irritating music
- Misses out on a lot more things than Game Boy Advance adaptations usually do
- Somewhat boring level design

< 7.4 >

tiistai 23. heinäkuuta 2013

The third approaches

In just a couple of weeks, this little juvenile underground gaming blog of mine turns three, and I thought to give you some insight on what's about to happen, at this very point; as to if there'll be some sort of special celebration, and after a bumpy, extremely inconsistent year such as the one I've had - a relatively pathetic amount of reviews and great ideas that never came to be - one might think that this is the blog's last birthday. Well, it's not - I've decided I'll keep writing as long as I'm interested in video games, and that's probably going to be one long while. You could say that the blog exists as long as I do, regardless of my pace of writing reviews.

I've been going over some updates from the last 12 months and picking up stuff which I once was very eager of doing, but which I then just forgot. Well, I've already told people what's going on with the Metal Gear special "off screen", so I just might've forgotten to make an official statement on the issue: I was very disappointed with how my long article on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain turned out. I decided not to write any more stuff about the game before all facts about it are in the clear, and with that, I also decided to postpone all the Metal Gear-related stuff I had already worked on, because inevitably, I would start babbling about The Phantom Pain and make hasty predictions way too early. That's just the way I am.

The next Monster Mash starts on Halloween week as always, but this time, I might actually stretch it a little, all the way to the end of the year if I feel like it - there are a lot of loose ends there to take care of, and individual games I've been wanting or even planning to review for a long time.

After dealing with Spider-Man and one Marvel superhero who has a "few" less games with his name on 'em than his webslinging colleague, I'm going to take a break from Marvel games, since there is absolutely no way I'm going to wrap up the whole thing before the 3rd, and after almost twenty Spider-Man games, I think both you and me have deserved an indefinite break from Stan Lee's seemingly endless amounts of intellectual property. September 17th marks the arrival of Grand Theft Auto V - what to do in the meantime? Can anyone spell R... P... G...?

I've smoked for 16 years, and been a _heavy_ smoker for 11. Me and a good friend of mine had a chat about quitting, and I told her that this far, long and immersive role-playing games have proven to be the best solution for keeping me from smoking, for as long as eight or nine hours at a time (I usually smoke one per hour). I was serious too; this happened on my first playthrough of Fallout 3 back in the day, and I wasn't even planning to quit. I just didn't feel like smoking, it never crossed my mind. Now I'm seriously thinking of quitting, and I've laid before me a whole pile of role-playing games as the most potent medicine. So why not take advantage of the situation and go for a good old-fashioned RPG TIME! before 2013's most anticipated monster of a game comes out?

Now there's an appetizer for ya. Stay tuned for the rest of Marvel - Part I.

EDIT: Shit, I almost forgot: after months of giving a million different drafts the trashcan treatment, I'm going to upload a simple version of my game collection to my website later tonight, or tomorrow night at the latest. The link previously labelled "VGArchive" is labelled "My Game Collection" from now on. There's nothing there as I'm writing this, so the link's not broken.

keskiviikko 17. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Spider-Man 3 | GBA | 2007

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: May 2, 2007
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man series was never supposed to be a trilogy - actually, a fourth and fifth movie were planned. It sure seemed like a trilogy, though, 'cause with Spider-Man 3, Raimi went all in. As critics and many fans would put it, all in was way too much. Raimi tried to fit everything that fans had asked for into a mere 139 minutes of film; the result was an "incoherent mess" and as great as the group of three of the best villains in the franchise was on paper, it turned out a forgettable bunch of cameos with bad casting choices. Well, on the date of the movie's U.S. premiere, the first video game adaptations of the movie emerged - one of them surprisingly on the Game Boy Advance, which was nearing the end of its cycle.

The alien sand goblin

Dude, this is not what bros do!
Peter Parker's up for the fight of his life, and it's very personal. Escaped prisoner Flint Marko - the man ultimately responsible for the death of Peter's uncle - falls into a particle accelerator and morphs into a seemingly undefeatable sand mutant calling himself Sandman. Peter's best friend Harry Osborn has learned of the alter egos of both his father and Peter, and goes on a spider-hunt under the guise of the new Green Goblin. Finally, Peter's struggling with an alien symbiote that is heavily damaging his psyche and changing his personality. When he finally separates from the symbiote, the parasitic being finds a new host in Peter's very willing, embittered rival named Eddie Brock.

The movie Spider-Man 3 was a very conflicted experience for me. It lived on the professionalism of the actors, not its ideas. Topher Grace - a.k.a. Eric Forman from That 70's Show, now and forever - was a terrible choice to play Eddie Brock, who's usually depicted gruffy and muscular in the comics. Yeah, sure, he gained some mass for the movie, but whenever he started whining about how Peter Parker ruined his life, I was expecting Kurtwood Smith to suddenly rear his head around some corner and scaring him off with a funny "foot-up-your-ass" joke. His Venom form was mostly CGI, and this time, it didn't look nearly as abysmal as in the first movie. Venom's my favourite villain in the Spider-Man franchise, as I've well pointed out, and even the thought of Grace doing the mo-cap didn't ruin the glorious five minutes he actually spent on the screen as Venom. He's a good actor, I'll give him that. As for the rest of the movie - yeah, it's a bit of a mess, but one thing it doesn't lack is action. Basically I could go on and on overanalyzing the movie without an actual point, and still end up with the conclusion that it was a better movie than most folks give it credit for. Besides, it's still one of the highest-grossing movies ever, so you can't keep calling it a total failure. How fares the game? The movie might've been a mess, but especially considering they must've buffed this game up with even more cameos, that original cavalcade of villains alone could make it work, right?

You know what they say: Once you
go black, you can never go back.
Besides missing a few very important plot points along the way - Sandman's redemption is ignored and Mary Jane isn't even mentioned - and replacing these dramatic twists in the story with stuff that doesn't really belong, but should please any Marvel freak - like the appearances of Mad Bomber, Electro and Kingpin - Spider-Man 3 is a surprisingly faithful handheld video game adaptation of the movie, and what's even more surprising, a good one. Its worst problem is its on/off level design. The gauntlet levels are simply merciless; if you're in one of these God damn mazes and your goal is to find a certain set of key items (no extras included), you might very well make it to the end of the level only to find that you've missed one or two, and there is absolutely no way to go back. It's trial and error, all the way, and it can get really, really frustrating to start from scratch over and over until you get your track straight as an arrow. There's even a glitch in at least one of the levels - even if you complete the objective, it fails to check out, and you're left running around dumbfounded until you realize that the only way to proceed is to restart the level all the way from the beginning and hope that the completed objective registers that time around. Yeah, its ridden with technical errors and the level design still reeks from time to time - I never thought it could turn out such a common problem with these games - but the graphics and sound are basically quite good, and what we have here is a neat game with perhaps the most fluid controls out of all of the games included in the marathon thus far.

I'll soak your ass, mudslinger.
Spider-Man 3 is comprised of 15 two-part levels, many of which come to a climax in a boss fight against a small all-star group of Marvel villains, starting with the Green Goblin - the new one - and ending with none other than Venom. Sandman's one persistent bugger who harrasses you throughout the game and you'll have to face off with him a total of three times in various ways, while the Green Goblin acts as the first boss and is dealt with within the first 10-15 minutes. Venom doesn't even appear before the final levels. In that sense, the game is just like the movie - only in the game, you don't have to bear Brock's constant whining. The boss fights are surprisingly diverse and clever, even if the game itself very often feels very stale. Even if the level design isn't perfect or if the advanced controls keep pissing you off in gauntlet environments, the game is very fast-paced and the amount of objectives per level is very reasonable (it grows by the difficulty level; I'm playing on Normal).

The most important addition to gameplay is obvious to anyone who's watched the movie: Peter's new suit, which makes its first appearance in the early goings of the game, and is removed before the final levels, shifting the advantage from Peter to the final boss of the game. The black suit is automatically activated by the filling of a Rage Meter, which fills each time you break background items or successfully attack enemies, and deactivated if you get hit, just once. The black suit enables stronger combos, powerful attacks that aren't part of Peter's standard repertoire, and the destruction of certain types of obstacles. Also, the developers took note that since the black suit activates automatically, it could be instantly deactivated by an incoming enemy attack - as a kind of a reward, gaining the symbiote power-up also fills up your health meter to the max. It's the small things that matter... though it's not that small of a thing, I assure you. You're going to get your ass kicked in this game, sooner or later, and you'll be thankful for the existence of that suit.

Here we go!
What else? Beating each boss, including Venom, yields some reward - usually it's one extra tick for your maximum health, but sometimes they're upgrades you really have no use for. You'll do just fine with what you're given from the beginning, plus the black suit. Since they're automatic and don't have a toll of EXP to pay like in Spider-Man 2, they're completely harmless though. Just like this game.

It's definitely not a masterpiece, but one of the most entertaining games I've played on the Advance in a long, long time, and to my complete surprise, one of the best games in the marathon thus far - I shit you not. Too bad it went so unnoticed, for this is one Spider-Man game for the Game Boy Advance I think you should know.

+ (Flawed but) fluid controls
+ Good graphics and sound
+ The black suit rocks
+ A good cast of villains for a movie game, and surprisingly clever boss fights
+ Fast pace...

- ...Which we're extremely thankful for, since the levels are sometimes very boring and repetitive...
- ...And the gauntlets simply merciless
- Useless upgrades
- Misses out on key points of the plot, mostly on the characters' motives
- A few fatal glitches

< 8.0 >

perjantai 12. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Spider-Man 2 | GBA | 2004

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: June 28, 2004
DEVELOPER(S): Digital Eclipse Software
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

The sequel to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man premiered on June 30th, 2004, and if possible, it was received even better than the first movie, and clearly laid out a path for a third one, obviously ending as the middle part of a trilogy. Once again, Activision had five to six groups of developers working on versions of the game for just about every major and handheld platform that existed at that time. The sixth-generation version of the game for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube was released a couple of days before the movie premiered and garnered in the most praise, and is considered a classic - a very influential game in the field of sandbox action and licensed superhero games. The handheld versions for the Nintendo DS and the PSP, which were released months later - the game was actually a launch title for the DS - also garnered in some attention, while a version for the Game Boy Advance was pretty much chewed up by critics, and then forgotten. It couldn't have been all that bad, now could it?

Day of the tentacle

The plot follows the movie more closely this
time around, but it's still a "bit" more complex.
The brilliant scientist Otto Octavius loses both his wife and precious nuclear research in a tragic lab accident, and is merged with his own creation of four cybernetic tentacles. He blames Spider-Man for the whole ordeal, although he was not involved, and takes to calling himself Dr. Octopus. Meanwhile, Peter Parker is persistently and unsuccessfully attempting to bury his alter ego.

From the get-go, Spider-Man 2 gave off a much better first impression than the first movie did. I took it much more seriously. It turned out a good movie, but as a usual supporter of the "middle part", I found it somewhat disappointing, even dull at certain points. As a whole, the movie's like a giant tease for an incredible third movie. It works the best when you watch the whole trilogy in succession - I know, I know, you hated the third one. I didn't really love it either, but it definitely had its moments. More about that later; in a nutshell, Spider-Man 2 was a good movie which deserved most of the praise it got. I dare to say, though, the video game got even more praise than the movie, especially since it once again took the long route - liberties with the plot were just the beginning of the sandbox classic. Personally, I'm yet to experience the game - it's been on my wishlist for years - all I have is this Game Boy Advance iteration which was pretty much destroyed by critics back in the day. I kinda understand why, but it's an OK way to pass time for the undemanding audience.

Killin' the spider, killin' it with fire.
The music is quite good, actually. The fast-paced electronica fits a Spider-Man game better than any other superhero game - here's to the composers of several Batman titles of yesteryear. However, the sound effects suck. Each one of Spider-Man's functions, whether he's swinging, clinging to a wall or taking damage is accompanied by a grunt of discomfort, like he's taking damage all the time. The in-game graphics are artificially smoother than before, but several other technical issues emerge right off the bat. The FMV cutscenes - once again swiped from trailers for the movie - look rancid. Most of the in-game cutscenes are stills, not from the movie but the console version of the game. Those look quite all right, considering. The 3D bonus levels look and play out even worse than they did in the first game, and these ones you have to play through to proceed.

There's no way to tell how rancid this really
looks. And feels.
The gameplay's exactly the same, with a few changes. Here's the good news: you gain EXP from managing objectives, and you can use that EXP after each level to buy ability upgrades. Also... wait, that's it, so here's the bulk of bad news: first off, the level design is disastrous at its worst. In the first level, you have seven and a half minutes to deliver pizzas around Manhattan. There's no fighting involved, so you'll safely assume that the game can't get any worse than this at this point. The level is huge, filled with layers, the dark side of the controls rears head a few times (let go of the ceiling, Spidey - let go!!!), and I myself am bothered by the terrible logic of some people standing on the rooftops waiting for their pizzas to arrive. Or Spidey breaking people's windows to get in and deliver those damn pizzas. I'm even more bothered by the practical side of the level's ill logic: your spider sense tells you where your boss is, which is the exact same spot each time, but you won't get any hints of your customers' whereabouts. It's a back and forth run between your boss and the customers - running, swinging, climbing (whatever) back to your boss takes a lot more time than you can afford, and it's frustratingly hard to get back on track with that damn time limit on your ass.

So here I am! Now tell me, where does our
tax money go?!
The gauntlet levels are the exact same as before, except the web rappel has been removed from Spidey's repertoire altogether - which is a good thing, it always did more harm than good. However, if not taking the utter technical failures of the 3D levels into account, the already lacking framerate sucks ass in these levels in particular, especially if you get too close to whatever's destroying the level around you.

The best thing about Spider-Man 2 is that it's most basically pretty much the same as the first game - in this case, that's indeed kind of a good thing. There's even the same assortment of secrets to find, and thankfully a few bosses to support Doc Ock's cause, once again a group of apt individuals who I guess were never considered to appear in the Raimi movies. The level design's dull and I would've expected at least some improvement for several core elements of the game, but yeah, it's entertaining enough.

+ Catchy music
+ The same as the first one...

- ...The level design sucks, though
- Climbing shit is frustrating
- The framerate drives one nuts, especially in the "special" kind of levels
- The 3D graphics and the FMV cutscenes look abysmal
- Ill logic

< 7.1 >

REVIEW - Spider-Man | GBA | 2002

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: April 16, 2002
DEVELOPER(S): Digital Eclipse Software
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie premiered in the summer of 2002 and featured Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin and the gorgeous Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Not only did the movie become one of the greatest box office successes of all time, it was also named one of the best live-action superhero films of all time, alongside Richard Donner's Superman from 1978 and Tim Burton's Batman from 1989. Activision had been cooking up a game based on the movie for quite some time, and the game was actually released a month prior to the film's theatrical launch. The game was met with overwhelming response, considering it was a movie license (the Xbox version holds the highest average of the different versions on Game Rankings, at 78.17%). On the exact same date of this game's release, Activision also unleashed a little more comic book-like Game Boy Advance counterpart called Spider-Man, which was - a bit surprisingly - also received quite well.

Your friendly neighborhood bundle of pixels

That hostage a nun? Keep her!
After being bitten by a radioactive spider, nerdy high school student Peter Parker develops spider-like senses and abilities. After the death of his uncle in the hands of a mugger, Peter vows to use his great powers responsibly and becomes Spider-Man, the wall-crawling and web-slinging hero of New York City. Meanwhile, the brilliant scientist Norman Osborn - the father of Peter's best friend Harry - experiments with a performance-enhancing chemical designed for military use. The unstable formula works, but drives Norman completely insane, marking his transformation into a psychopathic killer who media dubs the Green Goblin.

X-Men came out in 2000, and despite what some critics were saying about the movie, I loved it - so did those critics once they got their thumbs out of their asses. Spider-Man came out in 2002, and it was met with unanimous praise. I went to the theatre all jacked up, and... initially hated the movie. Well, that's a heavy way to put it - I didn't really hate the movie, but I was distracted on the first viewing by an assortment of ugly spots. The heavy use of horrible CGI and the Green Goblin's still fucking ridiculous suit got all my attention. Kirsten Dunst's wet t-shirt too, but that was actually the key to get me to watch the movie again, and appreciate it as what is - a very good movie, one of the best superhero flicks there ever was. Still, especially after watching the sequels which had nothing as artificially ridiculous as the Goblin's get-up in them (except for the casting of Topher Grace as Venom), it might be the most conflicted movie of the trilogy. Great plot, great actors, spotty visuals. That's the first Spider-Man movie in a nutshell, if you ask me. Didn't know what to expect of the Game Boy Advance game - it looked so much like most 2D Spider-Man games I've ever played. I guess I was just hoping they somehow managed to scrape up all the best qualities.

Guess where this is? Yep, the docks!
Well, it is like most 2D Spider-Man games I've ever played. Only better. It doesn't really sound like anything, but that's better than sounding horrible. As far as the looks go... well, the in-game 2D graphics look quite decent, but the occasional dive into a 3D web-slinging setting and the few "cutscenes" look outright awful. At least there are no movie stills - as a matter of fact, not at all. The few "cutscenes" I mentioned are ripped off a teaser trailer, I believe. The main reasons for the total lack of force fed movie references are quite simple: first of all, I think they didn't want to spoil anything and secondly, the game really doesn't have that much to do with the movie. Although the very basic plot is the same - Peter becomes Spider-Man after Ben's death and Norman becomes the Green Goblin - it's very different. Norman's the one ordering other villains around from the start, as he's studying Spider-Man and his abilities, and developing his infamous "Goblin gas" further, somewhat based on his findings. These other villains are quite the small, but nasty bunch, composed of Shocker, Vulture and Scorpion - villains who I guess were not considered for the movies at that point, therefore free game for game developers. Norman's alter ego doesn't even show up before the end of the game.

This particular game called Spider-Man (the sixth one I've reviewed?) is one entertaining action game. Basics of gameplay are pretty much the same as in the few handheld games I've reviewed lately, but the game just plays out better, and the levels are designed very differently. Instead of straightforward runs, the levels in this game are either cubic mazes or gauntlets, each with a certain main objective to deal with. For example, in one level you need to find and break a certain amount of lethal gas containers to keep the gas from spreading - the level's quite small horizontally, but the freedom to swing in any direction reveals a quite large vertical base, which basically means these containers can be found anywhere in the level. After you're done with the objective, just mosey down to the end of the level and you're done with it altogether - no need to find an awkwardly-placed "Exit" sign like in many games. Sometimes you need to find extra items such as keys to be able to beat the level. There are a few secret items lying around, too, including photo opportunities which go on to unlock those movie stills luckily ousted from the in-game equation.

Crawlin' through the subway.
The gauntlets aren't that fun - although the controls are very tight in general, Spider-Man tends to get down on all fours, reluctant to get up no matter what you do (shades of the old DOS game which I reviewed first), and jumping down is much faster than crawling down, or rappelling down a web. The 3D bonus levels are of a simple, one-button scheme, but God damn painful to look at. Oh well, in a fit of positive thinking, one might say that these sorts of levels keep the game alive and create a diversion the earlier handheld games didn't have.

That's about it. I must say that Spider-Man is one of the better licensed games - especially games licensed off a movie - available for the Game Boy Advance, but I'll not boost it any further before trying out the rest. Yet, it's safe to say that thus far, it's the best handheld Spider-Man game there is. On to Spider-Man 2...

+ Not a very traditional movie license; great use of other source material
+ Objective-based levels instead of those endless runs against copy/paste backgrounds
+ Good controls...

- ...Climbing or crawling isn't always that fun, though, which is most evident in the gauntlet levels
- The boss fights are innovative, but consuming
- The audiovisuals are a bit disappointing

< 8.0 >

keskiviikko 10. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace | GBA | 2001

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: September 20, 2001
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

We're almost finished with Spider-Man's lead roles in Marvel video games - all that remains, for now, is a bunch of Spider-Man games for the Game Boy Advance. The first of them was Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace, a stand-alone curiosity item forgotten by time - no wonder, since Spider-Man games just kept on coming back in the day, and handheld exclusives like this game were almost bound to fail, commercially. Well, it's my job to make you remember. Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace - here we go.

The fishbowl's revenge

See? I told you!
Mysterio is attempting to take over Manhattan with the help of Rhino, Hammerhead and Big Wheel. Meanwhile, Spider-Man's torn between taking the villains down and getting a fishbowl for Mary Jane. Seriously - I'm not making this up.

I didn't know a thing about this game just a while ago. Whenever I start research on a title that has come out during the last few generations, I immediately head to Game Rankings to get a feel of how well the game has fared in gaming media. I was surprised to see Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace rated pretty high with the average score of 80.38% calculated from 20 (!) reviews. It's actually the 7th best-rated Spider-Man game listed on Game Rankings, falling just behind the PlayStation 2 version of Spider-Man 2 (the movie-based game), which many critics consider a classic. High hopes, high hopes.

I'm blue!
Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace could easily be called Spider-Man 3, 'cause it shares a lot of similarities with the two games released on Game Boy Color. I guess what happened here is that they ran out of good ideas for suitable villains (if this was the case, I could've helped...), and ditching the numeral justified the recycling of a Sinister Six member. It could've also been just an attempt at a whole new start for a new generation of handheld Spider-Man games. Well, it didn't come far enough from the previous games to have been a whole new start, but it's definitely the best out of the three games. It retains the stuff that made Spider-Man 2 rise high above its predecessor, and shines even brighter with a moderately fast pace and much more interesting level design.

Surprisingly, the audiovisuals are the worst part of the game. The music is quite horrible, in fact. While the game isn't outright ugly and should please a Spider-Man fan, it isn't much of a leap forward from the Game Boy Color titles, seriously. The capacity allows for level design that looks a little less like copy/paste and there's the occasional pseudo-3D environment to admire, but character animation, for example, really doesn't look that different from Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six - just slightly smoothed out.

Another superhero game that Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace reminds me of besides its predecessors is... Darkwing Duck on the NES. Before you start blasting me - YES, it's a superhero game for sure! And YES, I meant that as a compliment since it's one of the greatest NES games ever made. The initial layout of the game is quite similar, as there are three stages you can beat in any order. Beating the first stage unlocks a second stage to form a whole level, so there are six stages in all. Beat them all, and you go one-on-one with Mysterio in one final level.

Docks. Again.
The gameplay is very similar to that of Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six. The Spider-gadgets are pretty much the same - easier to use since there are more buttons now - and Spidey's basic moves are exactly the same. Collision detection fails from time to time, but it's not as much of a problem as it was in the first game of this series. Spidey's movement speed is once again on the slippery side, but again, not the problem it once was. As an extra gimmick, Spidey can grab hold of different suits (including the Venom symbiote) which protect him from certain obstacles or give him different perks. That's kinda cool.

All in all, Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace is a reasonably entertaining game. I wouldn't go calling it great or the most essential addition to your Marvel video game collection, but it's good - I can most definitely call it one of the better Spider-Man games from yesteryear, now that I'm this close to the end.

+ Kind of like Darkwing Duck meeting all the best qualities of Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six - not bad
+ Fast pace, reasonably good level design
+ The suit power-ups are a clever addition

- The graphics have not evolved much
- The gameplay's still exactly the same and hickups are still present, from extra-sensitive movement to lacking collision detection

< 7.7 >

REVIEW - Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six | GBC | 2001

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: May 15, 2001
DEVELOPER(S): Torus Games
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

The turn of the millennia was a very confusing time to be following the development of the Spider-Man video game franchise. The first Spider-Man movie by Sam Raimi had been announced, and Activision was almost automatically given the green light to order a licensed game based on the movie. Now I'm not sure, but that might've had a very confusing - and damaging - effect on how the new series that started with the critically acclaimed 2000 video game Spider-Man would continue. That game eventually got a sequel entitled Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro; unlike its praised predecessor, this game was exclusive to the PlayStation, and got a crushing response. Critics pretty unanimously blamed the poor quality of this anticipated sequel on the developers' rush and shifted focus. The Game Boy Color game got a sequel of its own, based on the very same band of rogues as Spider-Man's only appearance on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the day, with the basic rules of gameplay very loosely based on the second Spider-Man game on the original Game Boy. There's nothing new, then, but we can always hope for a better outcome.

The second return of the sinister d... still too predictable.

Oh look, it's Mr. Fishbowl.
Mysterio, Sandman, Vulture, Scorpion, Kraven the Hunter and Doctor Octopus have reformed the Sinister Six. They attempt to kidnap Peter Parker to get closer to "his friend" Spider-Man, but being unable to find him, they kidnap Aunt May instead. Peter returns home to find a note left behind by Sandman and Scorpion, and immediately launches after the Six to kick some ass, Spidey style.

Just as I wrote earlier, I've heard fairly good things about this game, how it's a relatively better sequel to Game Boy Color's Spider-Man than Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro was to the multi-platform big boy. Since it's a Game Boy Color game - once again I find myself asking why, since Game Boy Advance was just about to come out in the U.S. and Europe - I couldn't afford to ask much from it, and I didn't. Just tighter controls and some semblance of variety, for several core elements of the game. I heard it's a bit like Spider-Man 2 on the original Game Boy - if they could pull off a good game on the side of a good idea, why not? Then I reflected on the subtitle: The Sinister Six. The previous performance by this particular band of rogues was not a very good one. I carried on with mixed emotions...

Why do bad guys always
hang around at the docks?
The truth is Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six is almost everything I hoped for. Nothing more, nothing less. It's got good graphics, good music, good controls, a good plot if that matters, and yeah, although it's still a very straightforward and repetitive game, there is some semblance of variety. Calling it an apple from the same tree as Spider-Man 2 on the original Game Boy is exaggeration; while that game had a very strong adventure game feel to it, the only adventuring here happens after some switches scattered all across long-ass levels. There are no real key items or anything of the sort. Beat the "adventure" part to beat stage 1, go to the end of the level to beat stage 2, face off with one of the Sinister Six, proceed to the next level. This is how it goes, there's nothing really fancy to it.

The controls are much better than in the previous Game Boy Color game - the layout of the controls is pretty much the same - and that raises the game far above its predecessor. It's still very, very dull, but worth checking out if you are one of those people who simply can't get enough of Spider-Man.

+ Good graphics, and exceptionally good music
+ Good controls, none of that lack of traction very present in the first game

- Still run-of-the-mill
- Still too many lengthy, boring levels to waddle through

< 7.0 >

REVIEW - Spider-Man | GBC | 2000

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: September 1, 2000
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

While Neversoft was working on the PlayStation game entitled Spider-Man, Vicarious Visions was cooking up a handheld "version" of the game for the Game Boy Color, also to be published by Activision and scheduled for release a few weeks after the big one. Although it came out around the same time and has the same cover art as its home console counterpart, Game Boy Color's Spider-Man is naturally a wholly different game than the eventual multi-platform title, but also has a totally different storyline. The big one saved Spidey's reputation on home consoles, did the little one do the same for him on handhelds?


An explosion at Dr. Curt Connors' lab leads Spider-Man to the trail of a new, mysterious villain, who has managed to enlist the help of Venom and Hobgoblin.

Activision's Spider-Man resume is glazed with good, great, if not fantastic titles, starting with Spider-Man on the PlayStation. Fully aware of the Game Boy Color's limitations, I expected this game to be of great quality of its own kind, perhaps a good shot of the unique on the side. Well, the Game Boy Color version of Spider-Man is your extremely standard, run-of-the-mill platformer. Not quite the stain in the history of the franchise as the three games for the original Game Boy were, but after such a strong performance as the console "version" of the game, its quality is disappointing, to say the least.

They should've named this
Spider-Man: Attack of the
NES Sprites
The graphics and sound are pretty good. The last Game Boy Color games I played were the Mega Man Xtreme games, which looked awful - in comparison to those games, Spider-Man looks great. The animation is smooth and everything's just dandy on the visual front. The music's more than a little bit repetitive, but professionally sequenced and quite catchy, especially the title tune.

The controls are the game's downfall. The scheme is clever enough, but Spider-Man's fast and floaty movement just isn't for this hectic environment. Collision detection fails constantly, enemies spawn like crazy, and very often you'll find yourself surrounded, punching and shooting web like there's no tomorrow and still getting your ass kicked 'cause your attacks just won't connect, instead they go straight through enemies. The levels are lengthy and repetitive, and with just about the whole game wide open from the beginning, you won't always know where you need to go to make progress. It's frustrating as hell to make it to the end of a level just to find you cannot proceed from there. The storyline is thinner than a twig. They could've at least used the storyline from the console counterpart; this is kind of like an origin story for the Lizard, and not nearly the best one we've seen. The intro's cool, though.

I've heard the sequel's more like it, so I'll head into that without further due. This was quite the disappointment, but like I said, not the worst handheld Spider-Man game by any measure.

+ Light entertainment, easy to learn
+ Good graphics and sound

- Bad design
- Fast and floaty
- Run-of-the-mill
- Generic storyline

< 5.8 >

REVIEW - Spider-Man | N64 | 2000

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: August 24, 2000 (PS1)
DEVELOPER(S): Neversoft Entertainment, Treyarch Invention (DC), Westlake Interactive (MAC), Edge of Reality (N64), LTI Gray Matter (PC)
PUBLISHER(S): Activision, Aspyr Media (MAC)

A lot of quality superhero games have emerged in the last decade, the most notable occurrence of a great triumph being Batman's return to the circles with 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum. However, before the emergence of undoubtedly the greatest series of licensed games ever made, critics were enjoying the hell out of Spider-Man. Activision have taken it upon themselves to produce a long string of Spider-Man games, based on both the comic books as well as Sam Raimi's movie trilogy, and for most of these games, they have enjoyed a raving response, most notably 2004's Spider-Man 2, which is often regarded as a very influential sandbox game and one of the greatest licensed games in history, and 2010's surreal Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Due to the existence of another Activision game entitled Spider-Man, based on the movie and released in 2002, modern gamers tend to forget the first fruit of Activision's successful revival of the ever-exciting webslinger, which arrived to please PlayStation owners in the summer of 2000. A few months later, Nintendo 64 owners got a taste of what critics were calling the best superhero game ever made at that time. I'm pleased to say time's been fairly kind to Spider-Man.

Along came THE spider

Rino Romano : Spider-Man
Daran Norris : Scorpion / Venom / Mysterio / Punisher / Captain America / Human Torch
Dee Bradley Baker : Rhino / Lizard / Carnage / Daredevil / J. Jonah Jameson
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. : Doctor Octopus
Jennifer Hale : Black Cat / Mary Jane Watson
Laurence Fishburne : Uatu the Watcher
Stan Lee : Narrator

While attending a demonstration held by Dr. Otto Octavius - who seems to have changed his ways - Peter Parker witnesses a Spider-Man impostor crashing the show and stealing Octavius' invention. A manhunt is issued for Spider-Man, who is after the true culprits on a manhunt of his own. Meanwhile, Venom kidnaps Mary Jane and all hell breaks loose all around the city as several supervillains start running rampant. It's one gigantic Marvel Comics showdown, and we're part of it.

Settle down, Edward.
Let's get this over and dealt with right away, since I'm probably going to cross-reference Spider-Man with a certain game as long as I'm writing this review: I am NOT trying to take anything away from Batman: Arkham Asylum. I am NOT trying to belittle its importance or influence in the history of licensed games, or more specifically, superhero games. Now that I've played Spider-Man, though, I must ask this: was every greatest feat of Batman: Arkham Asylum completely fresh? It had near-perfect gameplay, a wide array of classic characters who made an appearance at some capacity, great look and particularly fantastic sound. But, these exact things are what Spider-Man was built on, back at its time - NINE YEARS before Batman: Arkham Asylum. Think about it... and once you've done that, remind yourself that no one beats Batman. Not ever. Also, how cool it was to step into that madhouse with its mad inhabitants and crazy occurrences over and over again. God, I so want to replay that game... again. And also, that this game is very different from Arkham Asylum, being a straightforward (stealth) action game above everything else. Of course it's dated, but what bothers me more is that it's very light-hearted - almost campy. I don't like that. As much as I like the idea of Stan Lee himself narrating the game, it sounds the same as if Adam West narrated Arkham Asylum. (Was this little joke the whole point of this comparison? Don't know.)

If you're prepared to see a host of your favourite Marvel characters (a LOT of them, including curiosities like Namor and Silver Surfer) reduced into sculptures of rock and wood very typical to a Nintendo 64 game, you might appreciate the artificial look of the game. They could've at least stylized the cutscenes to resemble a comic book story, but no, they put the blockheads in. Oh well, what the game loses in artificials, it gains in animation - the animation is simply superb. For the first time ever in a Spider-Man game, you truly feel like you're Spider-Man, the character animation is so fluid and goes well with the fluid controls - however, I must once again criticize the N64 controller, which should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever read my reviews of third-party N64 games. This is one of the first of those third-party games I've bumped into, to sport real voice acting - by Spider-Man veterans, at that, including Rino Romano and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.. Of course, N64's capacity can't handle a full voiceover track, especially for a full 3D game in which you're able to move on just about any surface in a full 3D environment. Sounds awesomely contrary to what I said before about the game's artificial look, but you should know that most of the environment is empty space - there's such a lack of detail that you'd think the game was broken.

Spider-Man manages to impress with just about everything except for the quick glance... oh, and the camerawork, as well. It's simply rancid, especially when you zip up to ceilings, in which cases the camera automatically pans up to inside the ceiling instead of staying on your back. Since the camera buttons are used for something wholly else than controlling the camera, you'll just have to wait for the camera to stabilize automatically, or alternatively aim at something.

As blocky as she is, Black Cat's stirring up
something downstairs. Or maybe it's just
Jennifer Hale's voice.
Once you learn to use the camera buttons (one's for a punch, one's for a kick, one's for a straight-ahead webshot) without trying each one each time 'til you hit the right one, and beat a few levels, you'll most likely find beauty in this game. The levels are loosely based on actual comic book stories, interwoven as smaller stories into the game's exclusive plot - hmmm, Arkham Asylum again! It's awesome, not to mention authentic. The occasional voice acting is always on the mark; I'm once again bothered by the messed up proportions between Felicia Hardy's gigantic breasts and blocky head, but I'm done with the graphics. The way the fluid gameplay, thematic levels and the light-hearted, yet plausible voiceover work provide you with that genuine Spidey feel are much more important elements than anything meeting the eye.

The actual tutorial sequence of the game is quite short; the action begins almost immediately and the game is quite challenging from the very beginning. The enemies' A.I. isn't really that good, and I guess the developers deliberately toned it down a further bit to prevent the game from becoming unreasonable. You see, in the very beginning of the game there's this room full of hostages and enemy guards, and you pretty much need to incapacitate the guards one at a time, and do it quickly and quietly, 'cause one slip-up to just slightly alert just one guard results in game over, and checkpoints are not this game's strong suit. You haven't necessarily learned everything about the game just yet, it's like the ultimate test. You could say it's a part of the tutorial, 'cause after that sequence, you'll have inevitably learned each skill you absolutely need to beat the game. It might be a little unforgiving start for the game, but trust me: you'll want to go on. Once again, I can't help but to direct you towards the PlayStation version of the game, but this time, the Nintendo 64 version isn't all that bad, since it isn't a hectic beat 'em up (like it well could be), the type of game which I really hate playing on the Nintendo 64.

Stand still, dude.
As absurd as it sounds, Spider-Man runs on the same engine as Neversoft's breakthrough megahit Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and like that game, Spider-Man has (relatively speaking) tons of goodies and modes for you to unlock upon multiple playthroughs or using a cheat. There are several different costumes for Spider-Man, and if you're into something more substantial, there's the surreal "What If?" mode for you to experience. Although the game pretty much plays out the same in this mode, the narrator changes from Stan Lee to Uatu the Watcher (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), and there are even much more curious Marvel cameos for you to spot than in the "real" game. Completing Spider-Man isn't the end, and as a game, it's got quite enough content to keep you glued to the sofa for quite a long bit.

Spider-Man (whether you want to call it Spider-Man 2000 or in this case, Spider-Man 64 - anything to clearly separate it from inferior games that share the title) was the best Spider-Man game of its time, for sure, and still a damn entertaining, recommendable superhero game. Things are finally looking up.

+ Innovative and fluid full 3D gameplay spiced up with stealth action
+ A very authentic Spider-Man feel; actual storylines fitted into a new plot, voiceover work performed by people who worked on the animated shows, etc.
+ A huge cast of who's who in the Marvel Universe, with appearances by the Punisher, the Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four and Captain America, just to name a few
+ Unlockables that Marvel fans will surely appreciate

- Blocky graphics kinda degrade the experience, especially the cutscenes
- Authentic, yet kinda campy
- The haywire camera comes this close to ruining everything all the time
- Both Green Goblin (although referenced) and Hobgoblin are out of the otherwise impressive fray

< 8.4 >